Hunting is slowly becoming a rich man’s sport. Too many people have found a way to make a buck off of hunting, and the value of trophy animals and the value of private hunting property have skyrocketed. For some, it is just easier to give up hunting than to keep trying to hunt public land or the less-desirable scraps of land that nobody wants to lease or buy. No doubt about it, it is hard to find deer and turkey hunting land as the days of asking permission seem long gone. However, for upland bird hunters these are the good old days, and you can still find places to hunt.
I once took a road trip with my black Labrador retriever to southern South Dakota in the quest for upland birds. With just a little research, I found out that South Dakota has a healthy population of various game birds. I was hoping to kill pheasants, grouse, quail, and hopefully a prairie chicken and we did end up getting all these and more by simply locating small and overlooked hunting properties.
My most memorable encounter was driving down a snowy road and running across hundreds of pheasant tracks that had crossed the road and entered a small five acre homestead. This place was covered in evergreen and cedar trees and it looked like the heaviest cover in the county. I asked for permission to hunt the back two acres farthest from the house, and the nice owner didn’t hesitate when saying yes. My dog and I took a limit of pheasants in five minutes, and I watched over one hundred birds fly out of there in all directions.
It is almost a given that large farms and acreages have been hit up for hunting permission or offers of lease, but the small micro-farms are often left alone. This can be to a hunter’s advantage. If you love bird hunting, then the late fall and early winter are prime times. Not only are there upland birds available, but waterfowl can be hunted in most states during this time and a lot of small farms have small ponds where almost anything can be found.
I once ran across a Mandarin drake in a tiny farm pond in the Midwest. I couldn’t believe it and it seemed impossible that it could have been an escapee from some bird breeder, because he was the wildest duck I had ever seen. He tried ducking behind grass to hide, and when he got too nervous, he flew out of there like a missile.
Permission to hunt does not have to be a thing of the past. Locate small, unassuming places and make your move.